When a small stretch of St. Louis Avenue was recently renamed T Bone Burnett Avenue (in honor of the Grammy-winning musician, producer, and Fort Worth native), Jason Suder took it as a sign that he had picked the right street for his upcoming mid-sized music venue, Tulips FTW.
One month earlier, Suder learned that the one-time home of The Collective Brewing Project was available to lease. The brewpub announced its closing on January 9. As Suder gave me a tour of the future home of Tulips FTW, much of the brewpub’s equipment lay strewn about, still waiting to be hauled off. Extensive renovations will be needed to transition the brewery into a music venue with a national reach, but Suder and his business partner, Matthew Harber, plan to preserve several features of the popular brewery, especially in the bar area.
Tulips FTW will have a capacity of 600, making it the type of mid-sized music venue that Fort Worth has been missing, Suder said. He hopes to be open by September 7.
The building is basically a long rectangle, and movable walls dividing the space in half will be opened or closed as needed. The bar area will serve coffee, draught lattes (a thing in Austin, apparently), cocktails, beer from 18 taps, and wine. The space will also house a dry bar, a patio, and a rotating lineup of food trucks.
Fort Worth has been “missing out on our piece of a $9 billion industry,” he said, referring to touring acts that often skip Cowtown while on tour. “Music is a cultural driver as much as it is an economic driver. Why would Facebook move to Fort Worth if their employees didn’t have an opportunity to experience culture? This is a necessity that Fort Worth has long missed out on.”
Having grown up in Fort Worth before exploring careers in journalism and the music industry in several cities in North and South America, Suder knows that great music venues are nothing new here, but spaces like Caravan of Dreams, the Blue Bird Nite Club, J&J’s Blues Bar, and The Axis are now distant memories.
Suder said the team behind Tulips FTW is not made up of “music execs. We are community builders. There is nothing that connects people like music. There is a song for every story in our life. Music binds us together.”
Harber, the CEO of Spune Productions, a booking/promotions/event company, will be buying and booking the performers.
“Our aim is to host many of the types of shows currently being produced in rooms like the Kessler Theater and Trees in Dallas,” Harber said. “That’s a broad spectrum, but for a growing city that currently does not have a mid-sized room, the opportunity is there. It will take convincing for touring artists to initially opt for Fort Worth over Dallas, but, in time, we hope to be a part of shifting the industry’s perception toward viewing Fort Worth as its own independent market.”
Suder said there’s a need for local independent music venues that can coordinate efforts with other North Texas venues to draw big music acts that aren’t necessarily looking to play at Jerry World or the like. Fort Worth has been missing from that equation, outside of country music, he said.
After chatting with Suder, it seems clear that community will be a big part of Tulips FTW’s business model. Beyond having one or two “marquee” ticketed events per week, Tulips FTW will be open to all types of programming, from singer-songwriter residencies to guest classical musicians or non-musical community events.
The venue will also act as a tribute to Suder’s grandfather, Scott “Scotty” Sherman, who died in 2013 at the age of 79. The champion boxer, businessman, and devoted family man taught his grandson to “work hard, speak truthfully, do good, and fear no man,” Suder said. The patriarch of the Sherman family was fond of tulips.
“This is my homage to the entrepreneur who has given me every opportunity,” Suder said. Tulips FTW will be a “home for the people of Fort Worth.”